Lord of the Flies is a classic piece of literature that frequently appears on uni and school curricula. It’s a story about a group of kids that are essentially trapped on an island and have to learn how to survive. The book is famous for its exploration into human nature, which is widely lots of students have to study it for their exams. So we decided to create a quick cheat-sheet (kind of) which breaks down all the important information on everything you need to know about Lord of the Flies, including the summary of it, main characters, author and more.

Who is the author of Lord of the Flies?

lord of the flies author

Lord of the Flies was written by British author William Golding. He was born on 19 September 1911 in Newquay, Cornwall, and passed away on 19 June 1993. Golding was a novelist, playwright, and poet. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983.

When was Lord of the Flies written?

Lord of the Flies was first published in 1954. It was Golding’s first novel, and despite initial mixed reviews and modest sales, it has since become one of the most important works of 20th-century literature.

A brief summary of Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies is a novel about a group of British boys who survive a plane crash and end up on a deserted island with no adult survivors. Initially, they attempt to maintain order and replicate the society they’ve left behind, led by the democratic and civil-minded Ralph.

As time passes, the veneer of civilisation peels away. The boys, led by the charismatic and manipulative Jack, descend into savagery, with dire consequences. The title ‘Lord of the Flies’ is a literal translation of ‘Beelzebub,’ a name often used for the devil, and a hint to the dark turn the novel takes.

Analysis of Lord of the Flies

lord of the flies analysis
Credit: Johan Persson – www.perssonphotography.com

Lord of the Flies presents a stark and unsettling examination of the inherent savagery of humankind, suggesting that without the structures and rules of civilised society, humans easily revert to brutality. Golding, who served in the Royal Navy during World War II, wrote the novel in response to the horrors he witnessed during the war.

The characterisation in the novel is significant. Each character symbolises different aspects of society. Ralph, representing order and democracy, struggles to maintain civilisation. Jack, symbolising power and savagery, is consumed by the thrill of the hunt and the allure of anarchy. Piggy, the intellectual, fails to exert his rational influence over the group’s descent into savagery. Simon, representing inherent goodness, is unable to survive in the brutal environment.

The narrative raises important questions about the nature of power, the efficacy of democracy, and the fragility of civilisation. Golding’s conclusion seems to suggest that the beast is not an external force, but rather resides within us all.

Who are the main characters in Lord of the Flies?

There are several main characters in Lord of the Flies:

  • Ralph: The elected leader of the boys, representing order, civilisation, and the hope of rescue.
  • Piggy: Ralph’s advisor, who represents intellect and rationality. He is physically less capable but mentally sharp.
  • Jack: The antagonist, who represents savagery and the desire for power.
  • Simon: A kind and spiritual boy, who represents inherent human goodness.
  • Roger: Jack’s cruel and sadistic henchman, representing brutality and the worst aspects of humanity.
  • Sam and Eric (Samneric): Twin brothers who remain loyal to Ralph until they are captured and coerced by Jack’s tribe.

Examples of symbolism in Lord of the Flies

lord of the flies symbolism

Lord of the Flies is rich with symbolism:

  • The Conch Shell: Represents law, order, and political legitimacy. It is used to call assemblies and the person holding it is given the right to speak.
  • Piggy’s Glasses: Symbolise science and intellectual endeavour in society. They are used to start fires, representing both survival and destruction.
  • The “Beast”: Represents the innate savagery and evil within humans.
  • The Lord of the Flies: The pig’s head that Jack’s tribe impales on a stick and offers to the ‘beast.’ It symbolises the evil that dwells within each person.
  • The Island: Initially a paradise, it symbolises the world. The gradual destruction of the island reflects the boys’ descent into savagery.

5 famous quotes from Lord of the Flies and their meanings

  1. “The thing is – fear can’t hurt you any more than a dream.” – This quote is from Jack, who tries to convince the other boys that they shouldn’t be afraid of the ‘beast’. It reveals his early attempts to manipulate the boys’ fears for his own gain.
  2. “We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?” – Piggy utters these words, reflecting the disillusionment when their attempts to replicate adult society fail. It implies that even ‘civilised’ adults can descend into chaos and violence, a comment perhaps on the wars and conflicts in the adult world.
  3. “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.” – This quote is from the end of the novel, when Ralph cries for the loss of innocence and the revelation of mankind’s innate capacity for evil.
  4. “Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.” – Simon says this, revealing his understanding that the ‘beast’ the boys fear is not a physical creature, but the inherent evil within them.
  5. “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood.” – This chant becomes a mantra for Jack’s tribe, symbolising their complete descent into savagery and their loss of individuality and reason.

These quotes offer a glimpse into the profound themes and insights that make Lord of the Flies a timeless and thought-provoking novel. They capture the essence of the characters, the narrative, and the underlying themes of the book.

What is the significance of the ending of Lord of the Flies?

Conch lord of the flies

The ending of Lord of the Flies is deeply symbolic and significant. Just as Ralph is about to be hunted and killed by Jack’s tribe, a naval officer appears on the beach, and the boys are rescued. This sudden shift from savagery to civilisation is jarring, and the officer is shocked by the “fun and games” turned deadly. The boys begin to sob, perhaps in relief, perhaps in mourning for the loss of their innocence. The ending suggests that despite the thin veneer of civilisation, the potential for savagery lies within all of us, and it takes only certain conditions for it to come to the fore.

Is Lord of the Flies a true story?

No, Lord of the Flies is not a true story. It’s a work of fiction, though it engages with real philosophical and social issues, such as the nature of humanity, the need for social and political order, and the conflict between civilisation and savagery.

Although it’s not true, there are some cases that have been compared. Check out the case of 6 shipwrecked boys on an island for 15 months and how they survived. Thankfully, it turned out differently from Lord of the Flies.

Is it worth reading the book?

is it worth reading lord of the flies

Lord of the Flies is a profound exploration of the human condition. It delves into themes of power, human nature, and the thin veneer of civilisation that separates us from savagery. It’s a valuable read for its insights into these topics and for its impact on literature as a whole. Also, its critique of certain societal structures and its exploration of moral and ethical dilemmas make it a fascinating study.

The influence of the book on popular culture

Lord of the Flies has had a profound impact on popular culture. Its themes have been explored in numerous films, television shows, and books. For instance, the television series Lost has numerous parallels to Lord of the Flies. The novel has also been directly adapted for the screen several times, notably in 1963 and 1990.

Other works has William Golding written

After the success of Lord of the Flies, Golding went on to write several more novels, including:

  • The Inheritors (1955): An imaginative recreation of the world of the Neanderthals and their extinction.
  • Pincher Martin (1956): The story of a naval officer’s struggle for survival after his ship is torpedoed during World War II.
  • Free Fall (1959): A story about a prisoner who reflects on his life and tries to identify the moment when his life went astray.

Each of Golding’s novels explores a different aspect of human nature and the human condition, making him a distinctive and significant voice in 20th-century literature.

Lord of the Flies is a powerful novel that explores the nature of humanity and the tension between civilisation and savagery. Its themes and symbols continue to resonate with readers, making it a timeless piece of literature. Understanding the context, characters, and symbolism of the book enhances the reader’s appreciation and comprehension of this compelling story.

If you’re looking for more cheat-sheets on famous English literature works, check out the best key quotes in Macbeth.